Posts in Integrated Communications

Part 2: Orchestrating the new 360-degree brand building solution

November 16th, 2017 Posted by Agency Services, brand marketing, CMO, Digital marketing, Integrated Communications, Marketing Strategy, Public Relations, Transformation 0 comments on “Part 2: Orchestrating the new 360-degree brand building solution”

How integrated communications planning operates

Marketing is no longer a department. Every aspect of how an organization collectively sees itself, thinks and behaves impacts their ability to get and retain customers. As consumers gained control in their relationship with brands, and cultural shifts placed more importance on brand integrity, transparency and beliefs, a new marketing model has evolved with it.

Now, a more holistic and comprehensive approach to business growth and development is required. In today’s consumer-driven climate, an organization’s higher purpose matters at least as much as the quality and benefits of the product itself. The entire ecosystem of business strategy to brand communication and experience must be optimized for relevance and resonance to consumer interests and needs.

Moreover, placing the consumer at the center of business strategy means that every aspect of how the company operates, creates products, sources its ingredients, behaves in the marketplace, and communicates, must be adjusted to align with how consumers’ lives can be improved through relevant brand touchpoints.

In this article we detail the eight elements of effective planning and communication in the age of consumer control. Together these ingredients form the recipe for brand-to-consumer engagement, conversation and mattering.

1. Business analysis linked to higher purpose guidance

We have entered a new era where company behaviors, as well as the DNA and creation of the product itself, is more directly impacting business growth outcomes. As a result, the client and agency team must collaborate to help guide business strategy, considering that all aspects of how a company operates will inform marketing results. Marketing and Communications simply cannot be isolated from the rest of the business plan – or brought in later to “ice the cake.”

The marketing ecosystem partners must be able to evaluate and bring context to operations, product creation and innovation, brand strategy, consumer insight and relevance. Equally important is providing strategic guidance on establishing the company’s mission and higher purpose. It is higher purpose – a real human-relevant mission that goes above and beyond the commercial intent of commerce – that becomes the blueprint to direct all aspects of business and go-to-market planning.

2. Importance of insight research and message testing

How can you possibly expect to support consumer aspirations if you haven’t peeled the onion to get as close to customer lifestyles as possible – and we’re not talking just about purchase behaviors. What’s going on in your core users’ lives? What do they want, care about, or dream of? How do you answer the call to deep understanding of what they value? How do you know what will resonate unless you pressure test the various ways to present a brand’s bona fides in relation to your customers’ specific needs?

3. Multi-channel outreach strategies

Mass media is gone. The ability to aggregate eyeballs went with it. Communication today is more narrowly focused on engagement in smaller communities where consumers participate, typically online or via experiential. So now, the portfolio of communications tactics must build from a seamless integration of medium and message in social, content, earned and paid, dialed into platforms and communities where potential fans and ambassadors reside.

It’s here where we find one of the strongest cases for higher purpose strategy. To the extent a brand is able to marry itself to a consumer passion point and become an enabler of it, the door opens to defining where the brand can participate and contribute in relevant ways. This is what Clif Bar® brand does as a focused supporter of outdoor adventure sports enthusiasts, or what Bosch home appliances does to inspire and enable culinary passions of home chefs.

4. The fundamental aspects of emotion and meaningfulness

Analytical, fact-based outreach is not respectful of the human condition. We are emotion-based beings and respond accordingly. There’s more intrinsic power in emotional forms of connection than will ever exist in messaging that’s a rational recap of data, facts and figures.

The human brain isn’t wired for this kind of disciplined analysis outside of the classroom. People care about their relationships, values, meaning, purpose and beliefs. Want to build a closer rapport with consumers? Then imbue your brand with greater meaning for your customer, beyond the product itself.

Video, by definition, is an emotionally-evocative medium. Stories of personal experience and transformation can be powerful in reaching people’s hearts – where the action really is.

It probably bears mentioning here that purchases are actually symbolic gestures – a demonstration telegraphing what purchasers want the world to believe about them and their values. So, aligning the brand with cultural cues for consumers to gravitate to is mission critical.

5. The importance of disruption and differentiation

“Similar” and “familiar” are two words that consumers typically use to define the competitive set in most product categories. The messaging around a product’s technical distinctions are often comparable from one brand to another; reflecting the sameness in formulas, recipes and ingredient decks. Packaging formats are often similar among competitors, as is messaging.

In many cases you can exchange brand names between competitors at the shelf and the stories are relatively interchangeable. Pet foods are a textbook example of sameness in how brands present themselves and their nutritional story.

Uniqueness often requires disruption (challenger brand thinking) of category norms and accepted traditions. Doing the unexpected and purposefully violating category conventions are vital to standing out. With so many voices vying for attention, different truly matters. Ownable distinctions remain the Holy Grail – especially in commodity businesses. Increasingly important are consumer- and culturally-relevant cues speaking to their desires for authenticity, company standards and real food ingredients.

  • We helped a client of ours, Schuman Cheese, create the first and only trust mark in their category, a seal that independently verifies product authenticity and integrity. (Research confirms that honesty and truth count towards brand preference).

6. The power of social proof

The voice of the satisfied user is the most powerful form of marketing. Building and investing in communities of brand/product fans is a precursor to facilitating their engagement, reviews and endorsements. Their voices are far more credible than anything a brand can construct on its own.

Helping consumers tell their stories and share their experiences is the most important path to cultivating word of mouth, a form of user-generated communication that breathes truth because it comes from the hearts and mind of people without profit motive.

Far too often, we find brands engaged in social channels with self-promotional content. Social is first about conversation and second about sharing. Content that is intrinsically valuable and useful to the brand fan community is vital to securing their attention. Creating the opportunities for fans to build and share their own content is integral to creating the proof of benefit brand stewards covet.

7. Relevance is the precursor to engagement

Understanding core consumer wants, wishes, dreams and concerns will direct the creative inspiration needed to build branded content that is worthy of consumer consumption. People care about their own lives and interests first. Brands that become a reflecting pool of the users’ interests and desires put themselves in a position to earn their attention, trust and even loyalty.

Far too many marketing campaigns are self-reverential, self-promotional efforts designed to present product features, benefits and technology achievements. While this information will always remain of note, it cannot be the first consideration in how stories are constructed.

Yeti® brand builds video stories of adventures and experiences with real people who fish and hunt. Is it focused on their cooling tech? No. It’s focused on the users and their stories. This less transactional, less selfish form of outreach is the path to creating lasting relationships.

Brands are built now on the basis of their ability to gain trust. And trust, at its core, is founded on providing lifestyle help rather than product hype. When looking for brand recommendations, people believe friends and family first as we fundamentally think they have our best interests at heart, and will be honest. Companies that respect this more empathetic form of relationship building will prevail in the marketplace – because they are able to earn and retain trust.

8. The most under-leveraged marketing asset of all: employees

Marketing is often so pre-occupied with product packaging, presentation and in-market support aimed at the end consumer, that another equally important stakeholder audience gets the back seat. Or in some cases, no seat.

Employees are one of the most import assets a brand can deploy in the marketplace. Their passion and enthusiasm underneath an organization’s mission and higher purpose can be an essential building block of belief.

How an organization views this audience – as a partner or a cost to be managed – will impact marketplace performance. If you equip employees with the brand’s tellable tale and provide opportunities for them to engage people beyond the office walls, you’re able to leverage a dedicated, enthusiastic and credible population of ambassadors.

Bring them into social channel platforms as content co-creators. Provide the tools, resources and training to tell stories that underscore the company’s commitment to higher standards, integrity, assurances of quality and the lengths the organization will go to hear and be responsive to users.

Integration forms the backbone for brand success!

Each of these steps and tools form the basis of integrated thinking – from aligning business strategy to higher purpose, to building consumer relevance in every aspect of brand communication – delivering a 360-degree, holistic answer to real integrated marketing.

This method respects the need to bring symmetry and synergy to all areas of company operations, behaviors and communication in service of the consumer. When this happens, trust breaks out because the consumer is, indeed, at the center of the company’s effort and the conversation.

Ironically, this approach will create improved business results, more so than the typical path of looking at consumers as “targets” for marketing to persuade.

Looking for more food for thought? Subscribe to our blog.

Bob Wheatley is the CEO of Chicago-based Emergent, the healthy living agency. Emergent provides integrated brand strategy, communications and insight solutions to national food, beverage, home and lifestyle companies.  Emergent’s unique and proprietary transformation and growth focus helps organizations navigate, engage and leverage consumers’ desire for higher quality, healthier product or service experiences that mirror their desire for higher quality lifestyles. For more information, contact Bob@Emergent-Comm.com and follow on Twitter @BobWheatley.

Part 1: Integrated Communications – the New Maestro of Food Marketing

November 14th, 2017 Posted by Agency Services, brand marketing, branded content, CMO, Integrated Communications, Marketing Strategy, Public Relations 0 comments on “Part 1: Integrated Communications – the New Maestro of Food Marketing”

Is PR ready to move from instrument to orchestra leader?

Perhaps the harshest lesson for anyone in food and beverage marketing is the stark realization that persuasion no longer works. Persuasion was a welcome, business-friendly concept because its DNA was founded in brand-built, self-promotional messaging: here’s our product and why you should buy it.

Cultural shifts and behavior changes have transformed the shape of effective marketing from “talking at” consumers to “helping guide.” Consumers now rule the relationship – thus forcing changes in today’s marketing best practices and the service mix provided by agency partners.

Consumer shifts demand integrated communication solutions

When I first started in the agency business, public relations was primarily the sum of its media relations parts. Editorial media placement defined the marketing PR discipline, springing from its press agent roots in the post World War II rise of global agency companies. As the consumer packaged goods industry grew so did public relations. Its value exemplified in the context of cultivating third party, credible advocacy by a journalistic media source – one that was perceived to be unbiased and thus believable.

  • The marketing PR theory at work then: people in all demographic segments would consume media in print and broadcast forms to engage in the content – news or entertainment – while ads revolve around the perimeter searching (again and again) for attention. Getting your product talked about in the well of content was the ultimate in “intrusive” message delivery; wearing the aura of independent, reportorial endorsement. Controlled message and frequency were never in the equation like advertising, however, extended and cost-effective reach lived within its core proposition.

Mass media lived well with mass communication strategies.

Ogilvy (I was there for 11 years), in an effort to gain greater effective traction on behalf of its consumer branded clients, built an integrated proposition called Ogilvy Orchestration. It was an effort to bring symmetry and alignment between ad, PR, promotion and direct marketing services. While the concept had merit, its execution occasionally misfired due to competition between the various operating companies jockeying for the pole position of strategic client leadership. It was an early form of integrated thinking, yet, more about creating synergy among agency disciplines than a concept built to optimize and leverage consumer behavioral insight on the client’s behalf.

Digital changed the world: the old model lost traction, and a new one arrived

Let’s start by staking a claim: integrated communications – built around consumer lifestyle relevance – is the path forward for effective brand communication.

The consumer, for the most part, is in charge of how, when and where they engage in any and all brand messaging and hence, are in control of the relationships they choose to have with brands. Hence the tools deployed might blend earned media in the form of publicity, or branded content, or social channel conversation, or influencer engagement, or improved forms of advertising built around help over hype.

There’s an old adage, if the only thing you sell is a hammer then the answer to every problem is a nail.

So true. The Internet has facilitated consumer control over media channels and consumption. So there is easy avoidance of anything that walks and talks like traditional marketing. This condition ushered in a new marketing paradigm and tool kit – a decidedly less transactional model founded in relevance to consumer lifestyle interests, passions, needs and concerns.

Along with it, the current digital media eco-system literally demands a more conversational, straightforward and authentic form of communication. I would argue that PR brains are well suited to this task given the history of focus on editorial sensibility around “educating” versus the conventional solution leaning into cinematic salesmanship.

Today, brands must become partner, coach and guide to their audience as an enabler of their lifestyle goals. It is in this method of marketing reciprocity that more meaningful relationships between brand and consumer can be formed. It begs and answers the strategic question: in what ways can the brand improve the customer’s life?

At Emergent, we appreciate the shift to mattering and deeper meaning, rather than singularly advancing product features and benefits. The mattering construct requires businesses to fully operate in the customer’s best interests – which historically was a core principle that sat underneath the value proposition of public relations.

Implications to the planning model and agency

We believe integrated communication is a fundamental requirement for effective marketing strategy. Agencies that understand and can execute this fully will remain a vital and valuable resource to clients.

That said, it requires some modifications in operating behavior from the typical PR model of fielding tactical teams of publicists and creators of editorially-sensible material.

Integrated communications involves assembling an orchestra of expertise: part management consultants, part behavioral research experts, part brand strategy planners, part creative and producers of relevant content in a variety of media forms.

So, for clients and agencies looking to leverage integrated communications in earnest, the talent mandate must answer the call for integrated thinking. Inevitably, this will redefine the skill set requirements for firms who expect to provide the highest levels of value to their clients.

Integrated thinking informs integrated plans, which leads to successful integrated execution.

In Part 2 we’ll take a closer look at the elements of the new integrated marketing tool kit.

Looking for more food for thought? Subscribe to our blog.

Bob Wheatley is the CEO of Chicago-based Emergent, the healthy living agency. Emergent provides integrated brand strategy, communications and insight solutions to national food, beverage, home and lifestyle companies.  Emergent’s unique and proprietary transformation and growth focus helps organizations navigate, engage and leverage consumers’ desire for higher quality, healthier product or service experiences that mirror their desire for higher quality lifestyles. For more information, contact Bob@Emergent-Comm.com and follow on Twitter @BobWheatley.

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